Is it going to be Mamata Banerjee’s historic blunder — somewhat akin to CPM rejecting an offer to make Jyoti Basu the prime minister in 1996 — at least from West Bengal’s point of view?
Drawing an exact parallel between the two episodes would be a tough ask. But Basu himself and then party general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet wanted the CPI(M) to take it up.
The rivalry between Mamata Banerjee and Pranab Mukherjee is perhaps the only challenge to the first-ever Bengali becoming the first citizen of India. True to her style, Mamata never made a secret of her rivalry with Mukherjee since her days as the state youth wing president of the Congress. Her chance to make it big as a Congress leader in West Bengal was spoiled when Mukherjee’s support went for Somen Mitra. It’s history’s twist that during Singur-Nandigram agitation Mitra along with other top guns like Subrata Mukherjee, Sudip Bandhopadhya switched to her fold.
Mamata was very vocal in protesting when Mukherjee was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2008. She consistently said Mukherjee is a spokesperson for the Left parties. Unlike PR Dasmunshi, Mukherjee also wasn’t seen to be courting Mamata, especially during the Singur-Nandigram movement-— the trigger to end 34 years of Left’s rule in the state. Mamata consistently nursed her grudge against Mukherjee since he had reservations about a TMC-Congress alliance in 2011 polls.
Populist Mamata wouldn’t like to hit the road of economic reforms or improve the tax-GDP ratio in the state. She hoped for a bail-out package as she was the biggest ally in the UPA. Again she saw Mukherjee’s hand in the financial package not coming through.
Mamata tried to spike the son of the Bengal theory working in favour of Mukherjee in the presidential race and even named Somnath Chatterjee, whom she defeated in the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, for the post. But she saw naming Chatterjee would also taunt the Left.